Right and Wrong

Some would have us believe that the area between good and evil is largely gray and that it is difficult to determine what is right and what is wrong. For any who so believe, I recommend this beautiful statement of Mormon, quoted by his son Moroni: “For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God” (Moro. 7:16). -Gordon B. Hinckley

I don't know where so many of us get the crazy idea that we're not ever supposed to label anything as "right" or "wrong". Using my God-given ability to do so is a process that has been vital to choosing the path I've led so far in life. It has helped me steer away from wrong choices and toward right ones (Imagine that!). I honestly don't know how a person could ever lead a successful, moral life if he suspended all judgment and viewed every action by every other person by saying, "Well, maybe that's what's right for him." I'm pretty sure there are people who believe this is the best way to live, but I haven't yet heard an argument for it that makes sense.

Of course there are limits to proper judgment, and we should never cross those limits. But in my last post, the "right" and "wrong" I spoke of were mainly referring to full devotion to the Church and gospel compared to disobedience. We may enjoy debating inherent rightness or wrongness of an action using our limited understanding, but disobeying the word of God is one thing I hope we can agree should be labeled "wrong".

The side I recommended we pick is the side of following the gospel (including the Church's standards) to the best of our abilities. Conversely, those who choose to think of themselves as more intelligent than God and his prophets and choose a different path are the "wrong" side. I'm allowed to say that.

Sure, there are a few things in the gray areas. But thank goodness prophets help us out in a lot of ways by giving some clear boundaries. Thank goodness we have the Spirit of Christ and the right to personal revelation. We can expect that revelation to clarify truly gray areas; but we shouldn't expect it to contradict the gospel basics and the things our leaders tell us.

I apologize if I sound like Ann Coulter. I read a bunch of her book while waiting in line at Circuit City this morning.

30 comments:

GeckoMan said...

If we choose to see things as black and white in the world, minimizing grey tones, and also attach values of 'right and wrong' or 'good and bad' to thought and action, we can have problems (unhappiness) if we get too rigid or inflexible, because we may see in others, and ultimately in ourselves, failure and contradictions to that narrow vision. Life is too short to be miserable and frustrated about everything that's wrong or not perfect.

I choose to follow the Prophet and teachings of the church in my personal life, yet I have found a medium of love that allows me to be fully supportive of others of good intent who do not subscribe to my beliefs. I simply do not need to judge them. I get much more fulfillment in life by accepting others as they choose to be, supporting whatever belief system or lifestyle they choose as right for themselves. This doesn't mean that I should hide my light under a bushel, on the contrary, we should embrace all the good around us, and count ourselves as valid enough to make our positions known and worthy to live true to.

Therapevo Ydata said...

Beautifully said Calvin. I totally agree with you and President Hinckley's quote. There are many things that we all know are wrong and we know things that are right and you must remember that it is our choice to follow or disobey.

I also agree with you when people say , "Well, maybe that's what's right for him." It is just a justification of that person's actions. Then if you notice, it is so much easier to justify your own actions and you could say that it was right for this guy so it can be right for me too.

Peter said...

Why does everything have to be black or white or mysterious gray? I want to choose the yellow! I'm gonna live in a blue and orange world! I'm gonna do things that are violet.

I think that looking at whether or not something persuades you to believe in Christ or not is one good test to determine if something is right. A same sex relationship, however, does not persuade one not to believe in Christ, therefore it is not bad by that test.

I think there is a difference between right and good and wrong and bad. I think that right and wrong is something each much discover for himself, as Adam had to do. We have to be careful when we try to say what's wrong for and to others. Better to let the scriptures do it for us.

Neal said...

Peter,

You skipped over the first and most crucial part of Moroni's test, where he says "for every thing which inviteth to do good". Same sex relationships are not "good".

Now, the second part of Moroni's test (in the next verse) reads:

"But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do EVIL, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one; neither do his angels; neither do they who subject themselves unto him." (Moro. 7:17)

Applying the COMPLETE test, then, to same sex relationships we can clearly know - with a perfect knowledge - that they are WRONG. There isn't a single scripture or quote from a modern day prophet or apostle that says they are anything but evil, sinful, and something we should avoid at all costs. Here's a quote from Richard G. Scott that uses the exact word Moroni used: "Such stimulation can lead to acts of homosexuality, and they are EVIL and absolutely wrong." There are many other such quotes by the Brethren.

Its also interesting to note that those who have "subjected themselves to the devil" may try to persuade others to likewise do evil. We see this happen every day here in the Blogsphere.

So, the scriptures and the prophets have spoken clearly on this subject, and there is no ambiguity at all on what is right or what is wrong here.

Regards,

Neal

draco said...

Top form geckoman.

It feels good to be right about something. It's one of the security blankets in the church; we get to say that we are right about such and such, in the same breath saying that other people are wrong about such and such. In fact, we get to be right about everything in terms of religious doctrine. But what makes my idea of "right" any more valid than a Protestant's idea of "right" or a Jew's idea of "right" or any other religion's idea of "right?" Well I have prophets and apostles who tell me what is right. But other religions also believe they have inspired authorities who tell them what is right. But I have a spiritual confirmation of what is right. Well so does my Catholic friend- and his right is different from mine. What makes my spiritual confirmation more valid than his?

My point is that right and wrong are dependent on a person's choice of faith. And as long as another person's idea of "right" doesn't harm anyone else, then I don't believe that we should criticize their values. Everyone should adopt some idea of right and wrong, and then be understanding and tolerant when others adopt different ideas (hooray for utilitarianism!). So describing something as "right for him, but not right for me" is perfectly understandable. The common LDS response to this is: "But we can't both be right!" Then who is ultimately right in the end? Good luck proving that- 10,000 people will give you a different answer and all claim to have received divine inspiration. All we can do is choose a path, have faith, and follow that path (hooray for existentialism!). Who knows- maybe we can both be right...

As for this word "justification"- we throw it around in the church sometimes like it's a naughty word- like justifying your actions is a bad thing. Well of course people justify their actions- only an inane person does something without having some kind of a justification for doing it. If I decide to go gay, I'm definitely going to justify my decision- have good reasons- it won't be just a whim or because I feel like it or because I have some lame excuse. It's the same for someone who is choosing to restrain from such behavior- he justifies his actions. Even if someone is justifying something that we think is wrong- perhaps he thinks it's something right and that's why he's justifying his actions. The only time that justification is bad is when someone justifies doing something wrong that he truly believes to be wrong. This is hypocrisy. So as long as you truly do not believe that something is wrong, you're justified in justifying your decision to follow that path.

Sorry, I didn't mean to go on for so long :) I promise, I usually don't get so political about my philosophies haha.

draco said...

And to neal,
I don't think that calling someone "subjected to the devil" is a very effective way to get them to agree with you.

Neal said...

Draco,

Those are Moroni's words, are they not?


Neal

Neal said...

And that was a general statement, not a specific accusation.

Neal

draco said...

Now you're just justifying your zinger ;) (ironic wink).

playasinmar said...

Same sex relationships are not "good". -Neal

"Awesome" might be a better descriptor.

Neal said...

Draco,

If you look back at how Calvin was addressing this subject, he was doing so from the perspective of a Church member, not from the persective of other religions. Obviously those who don't have a testimony of the restored Gospel may or may not share our views on a topic like this. We should indeed respect the beliefs of others, as it says in our Articles of Faith. We also ask for the same respect in return. There are limits, of course, as we have seen when the Church takes a moral stand on issues like abortion or same sex marriage.

So if we approach this subject as members of the Church, the idea of justification or rationalization becomes more serious. As members we have gone beyond the mere profession of faith and have taken upon ourselves covenants regarding our behavior and commitment to Gospel principles. When we knowingly go against the words of the Lord, his Prophets and Apostles, we are breaking these sacred covenants. There really is no rationalization or justification that applies. There is no ambiguity in the doctrine regarding same sex relationships. As the scriptures say, "they are left without excuse". For a Church member, then, there is no question that "going gay" is wrong. The question really becomes, is "going gay" more important to me than the Church and the covenants I've made?

Regards,

Neal

Neal said...

Same sex relationships are not "good". -
Neal

"Awesome" might be a better descriptor.-
Playa

Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is ABOMINATION.-
God

playasinmar said...

Didn't we void that book of scripture?

"There are limits, of course, as we have seen when the Church takes a moral stand on issues like abortion or same sex marriage."

Also: Interracial marriage and Polygamy.

Neal said...

No.

Would you like something from the New Testament?

Romans 1:
27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness...

Or how about comments from some modern Prophets?

Pres. Joseph F. Smith:

“Sexual union is lawful in wedlock, and if participated in with right intent is honorable and sanctifying. But without the bonds of marriage, sexual indulgence is a debasing sin, abominable in the sight of Deity."

Pres. James E. Faust:

"The Church’s stand on homosexual relations provides another arena where we offend the devil. I expect that the statement of the First Presidency and the Twelve against homosexual marriages will continue to be assaulted. Satan is only interested in our misery, which he promotes by trying to persuade men and women to act contrary to God’s plan. One way he does this is by encouraging the inappropriate use of sacred creative powers."

Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley:

"People inquire about our position on those who consider themselves so-called gays and lesbians. My response is that we love them as sons and daughters of God. They may have certain inclinations which are powerful and which may be difficult to control. Most people have inclinations of one kind or another at various times. If they do not act upon these inclinations, then they can go forward as do all other members of the Church. If they violate the law of chastity and the moral standards of the Church, then they are subject to the discipline of the Church, just as others are.

We want to help these people, to strengthen them, to assist them with their problems and to help them with their difficulties. But we cannot stand idle if they indulge in immoral activity, if they try to uphold and defend and live in a so-called same-sex marriage situation.."

Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

"Persons cannot continue to engage in serious sin and remain members of the Church. And discipline can be given for encouraging sin by others. There is no Church discipline for improper thoughts or feelings (though there is encouragement to improve them), but there are consequences for behavior. In the same sermon in which he taught that men should not be “cast out,” the Savior commanded his servants that “ye shall not suffer any one knowingly to partake of my flesh and blood unworthily … ; therefore if ye know that a man is unworthy … ye shall forbid him” (3 Ne. 18:28–29). The Savior also commanded, “But if he repent not he shall not be numbered among my people, that he may not destroy my people” (3 Ne. 18:31; see also Mosiah 26:36; Alma 5:56–61). Consequently, if transgressors do not respond to calls to repentance, the shepherds of the Church flock must take disciplinary action in fulfillment of their God-given responsibilities.

At the same time, we should always distinguish between sinful acts and inappropriate feelings or potentially dangerous susceptibilities. We should reach out lovingly to those who are struggling to resist temptation. The First Presidency did this in their 14 November 1991 letter. After reaffirming the sinful nature of “fornication, adultery, and homosexual and lesbian behavior, the Presidency added:

“Individuals and their families desiring help with these matters should seek counsel from their bishop, branch president, stake or district president. We encourage Church leaders and members to reach out with love and understanding to those struggling with these issues. Many will respond to Christlike love and inspired counsel as they receive an invitation to come back and apply the atoning and healing power of the Savior."

playasinmar said...

Any qoutes from the Most Correct of Any Books?

Neal said...

How's this?

2 Nephi 13:

9 The show of their countenance doth witness against them, and doth declare their sin to be even as Sodom, and they cannot hide it. Wo unto their souls, for they have rewarded evil unto themselves!
10 Say unto the righteous that it is well with them; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings.
11 Wo unto the wicked, for they shall perish; for the reward of their hands shall be upon them!

The real question is whether you can produce any scriptures or quotes from modern Prophets and Aposltes that say same sex relationships are anything OTHER than wrong or sinful. I haven't found any. And please, make them specific to the subject - no tangents.

One more from the Book of Mormon:

2 Nephi 9:

40 O, my beloved brethren, give ear to my words. Remember the greatness of the Holy One of Israel. Do not say that I have spoken hard things against you; for if ye do, ye will revile against the truth; for I have spoken the words of your Maker. I know that the words of truth are hard against all uncleanness; but the righteous fear them not, for they love the truth and are not shaken.

playasinmar said...

Wasn't pride the sin of Sodom? I think you're reaching, Neal.

And as for my ability to quote scripture... I'd rather just site the history of the New Men of God reversing policies put in place by the Old Men of God.

You know, once the New Men of God realized they new better.

Neal said...

I didn' think you could do it...

Sodom - a reach?

Sunday School Manual:

1. The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah
As suggested in Genesis 19:4–11 and in the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis 19:9–15, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah engaged in grievous sexual sins. But these sins, while severe, were not the only sins for which the cities were destroyed. Have a class member read Ezekiel 16:49–50 aloud, and discuss with the class the other sins of which people in Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty. Help class members understand that we can be destroyed by seemingly small sins as well as by large ones."

Ezekiel 16:49-50:

"49 Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.
50 And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good."


The New Men of God, as prophets, certainly have new revelation as part of their calling, as did the prophets before them. That's why we have them.


Perhaps you should re-read the words of Elder Oaks:

"Persons cannot continue to engage in serious sin and remain members of the Church. And discipline can be given for encouraging sin by others."

Let's not encourage others to sin, Playa. That's a pretty high price tag.

Neal

Calvin said...

A couple of notes:

1. I do have some level of concern about what is right or wrong in life and am rarely miserable or frustrated. Oh, but I do feel sorrow when I don't follow a principle that I believe is absolutely true. If we view those things that we believe as just as "true" or "right" as any differing view, under what merits did we choose our beliefs?

2. Believing that a same-sex relationship is 100% okay is something that would lead to a disbelief in several statements by prophets. I'd classify that as bad.

3. I'm perfectly fine accepting that other people have different beliefs; I can be understanding and tolerant of them. But I can, at the same time, believe that they are at least partially wrong. Accepting the gospel as the one true path means just that. We can't say, "I know the Church is true now but I'm leaving my options open for the future." We can't say, "I have a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel-- at least until something better comes along." We can't say, "We're all children of God, unless you don't believe that!"

draco said...

sorry your post has turned into a war zone, Calvin :)

You know, when I was a little boy, my brother and I used to get into arguments about who was right about something. One of us would inevitably say something like, "I'm right times infinity!" -and you'd think that would be pretty hard to beat. But I figured out I could always win if I said, "I'm right no matter what you say!" and that would be the end of the argument. I wonder if that still works...

Peter said...

Wow, I didn't realize that there was such a big thread after my comment. I really didn't mean to start a debate about who's idea is right. In fact the point of my comment was really to say that you have to figure out what is right for yourself.

I have to confess, I sense a lot of insecurity and immaturity with some of the comments that boil down to: "your comment isn't valid and shouldn't be trusted because you've subjected yourself to Satan and are EVIL!"

drex said...

My thing is that everyone has a different path to God. That's not to say there's not an easier path, but as long as you end up in the right spot, you're good to go.

People learn differently. I think some people honestly have to taste a same-sex relationship to realize that it's not going to get them where they want to go. I'm not going to put anyone down for choosing that lifestyle. I will feel disappointed and a bit sad for them, though, because if they want to get to the celestial kingdom they have some bigger obstacles to face than someone who doesn't walk that path.

There is an overarching right and wrong. There are universal and eternal truths. It's the day-by-day choices that seem black-and-white or even yellow-and-violet close up that gray in the eternal perspective. Today's choice to run off with a boy might not be so wrong in the moment if it leads to an epiphany and climbing back on the narrow.

So as for me, I'll continue cutting people slack while trying to stay on the most sure path back to God that I can find. For me, that's never dabbling in a same-sex relationship and cultivating what I consider to be healthy relationships with people.

Therapevo Ydata said...

Calvin,

I love you tons!

-Ydata

Neal said...

Drex,

Interesting thoughts. I agree that we are all indeed responsible for our own salvation. Each of our journeys here on earth is unique and designed to give us the challenges and experiences we specifically need in order to become more like God. Some of that is painful at times, but that is part of the plan. I've always found it fascinating that even though Christ was perfect, "yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered". Even HE had to learn to obey.

I don't think I agree that some have to wander the forbidden roads to know that's not where they should be. I don't think we're ever better or stronger for having chosen not to follow the Lord, even if we come back later. And the danger, of course, is that many will be lost on those roads never to return. The Lord has promised he would not tempt us beyond that which we are able to bear. Still, as you point out the reality is that some of us will make that choice regardless. Hopefully we will all come back in the end. The Lord is always ready to take us back, isn't he? What a miracle the Atonement truly is.

Best Regards,

Neal

Brady said...

Calvin-
I'm not really ready to jump into some of the argument. But I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for saying it. I do believe in objective right and wrong. That's not to say that there aren't gray areas in which God gives specific guidance to individuals.

But I believe strongly that no confirmed member of the church can make any wrong decision in life without first being warned by the spirit. As it says in the scriptures, we are all given the ability to discern good from evil - even if we also have the ability to reason and justify choosing either option.

Abinadi said...

Wow! This is a hot post.

Calivn, I would have to agree with you on this one. I believe that God has spoken about the whole "gay" issue and that it is in black and white. We have been told not to participate in homosexual actions. As we all know, it is perfectly fine to be homosexual, but WE ALL KNOW WHERE THE LIMITS ARE! There are no gray areas in this arena, except that fact that it is perfectly fine to be homosexual as long as we don't act upon it.

One of So Many said...

"Black & White" "Good & Evil" "Virtue & Vice" The hardest part for me is when God makes what seems to be "Exceptions" to what has already been established. It makes everything else seem less...colorless.

drex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
drex said...

Neal: "I don't think I agree that some have to wander the forbidden roads to know that's not where they should be. I don't think we're ever better or stronger for having chosen not to follow the Lord, even if we come back later."

I'm not saying that they have to wander those roads, and I certainly don't think they're stronger for it. Some people do learn better from trial and error than from acting on an item of faith that they don't strongly believe in, though. I feel bad for people that feel the need to explore in order to learn rather than acting on faith, but it's not always to their ultimate detriment. Some people pull out of it and end up better than before - just not better than they could have been.

draco said...

Just wanted you to reach 30 comments on this post :)